Archive of ‘Children’ category

Back to School – The Morning Hustle

If you are like me, school day mornings feel like a mad dash to the finish line of getting everyone where they need to go. A good day is when no one is in tears and everyone has clothes on (pajamas count!). By the time I get myself to work I am often exhausted, annoyed, and my hair is a hot mess.

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

But last year, I tried a truly revolutionary practice to help with my mornings with the kids (mine are now 4 and 2), and today I want to share it with you as we gear up to use it again this fall. Please know that this practice takes time and planning, but with your efforts (and your family’s effort) it has a big pay off!

Positive Discipline suggests creating a MORNING ROUTINE CHART for (and with) your kiddos. Here’s one way to roll it out:

  • Gather needed supplies: camera or smart phone, poster board, glue, scissors, stickers, markers, and any other art/decorating materials.
  • Plan a family meeting time with all members present and an hour or so of open time.
  • Start by asking your kids, “Would you be willing to help us come up with a way to make mornings fun and easy?” Then create a list of things that need to get done before leaving in the morning (let your kids create this list, and chime in only at the end to add in anything they may have left out – you might say, “What about brushing our teeth? Should that be on the list?”)
  • Once you have your list, have fun “pretending” to do all the things on the list, and take a picture of each one.
  • Print out or develop your pictures (you might need to do these next steps at a different time, depending on the age and attention span of your family).
  • Spend time creating a Morning Routine Chart. Glue the pictures on and decorate the chart – let your kids lead this part too. (Special note: Don’t make the same mistake I did the first time and try to push your agenda and/or your crafting abilities on the chart – this is their chart and they will have much more buy in if it is their creation).
  • Use the Routine Chart as the “boss” – ask kids questions like, “What’s next on our morning routine chart?” or “What do you want to do next on the chart?” – instead of nagging.
  • Try several “practice runs” before school starts to get ready. If you realize you need to add something, this will give you time.
  • Go back and evaluate your routine chart regularly with your kids – how is this working? What do we want to add or take away?
  • Go HERE to read more about different versions of routine charts.

Enjoy! And have a wonderful school year.


Move, Eat, and Sleep Your Way to a Healthier Brain

A client in their early thirties told me recently that losing his mental faculties would be one of the scariest things he could imagine. I think most of us would agree that the thought of losing our memory or having decreased cognitive functioning is terrifying. New studies are showing that memory complaints are linked (across all age groups) to poor health and lifestyle factors. The bad news is that more young people are reporting memory problems. The good news is that exercise, learning, and making healthy lifestyle choices might improve your cognitive functioning.

Jennifer Alley, LPC

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

One study reported in Medical News Today suggested that thinking skills tend to be best in individuals who had better cardiovascular fitness when they were young. Another study, also from Medical News Today, said that research now shows a connection between narrowing arteries and memory issues. A new study by University of California, Los Angeles, published in PLOS ONE, found that risk factors like depression, diabetes, obesity, and smoking increased the probability of memory complaints across all age groups, including young adults (ages 18-39). And, regardless of age, the strongest risk factor found was depression for perceived memory issues.

Of course, there are genetic factors and diseases that may unfortunately negatively impact cognitive function in individuals who are making healthy lifestyle choices. However, here are tips from researchers and experts to best protect your brain:

  •  Get regular exercise
  •  Avoid smoking
  •  Further your education/learn/keep your brain stimulated
  •  Have your blood pressure checked regularly
  •  Seek help/treatment for depression/depressive symptoms
  •  Have an active social life
  •  Eat a healthy diet
  •  Get quality sleep (95% adults who get less than seven hours on a routine basis experience decreased physical and mental performance)
  •  Find ways to manage your stress

We urge parents who might be reading this to help your children start learning about living a healthy life now. Here are some ideas:

  •  Exercise as a family
  •  Go on family walks
  •  Play ball/chase/tag outside
  •  Go swimming
  •  Plan meals and snacks that are healthy (it’s a good idea to shop the perimeter of the grocery store where most of the whole foods are)
  •  Teach them fun ways to unwind (reading, playing, taking deep breaths, moving their bodies, dancing)
  •  Have consistent bedtime routines and schedules. See below to make sure everyone is getting enough sleep:
    • < 12 months old: 14-16 hours per day
    • 1-3 years old: 12-14 hours per day
    • 3-6 years old: 10-12 hours per day
    • 7-12 years old: 10-11 hours per day
    • 12-18 years old: 8-9 hours per day
    • Adults: varies but generally 7-9 hours to function optimally

Family Time in the School Year

girl swinging pic

It seems like the middle of summer but the next school year is right around the corner. As you stock up on pencils, paper and other supplies, it is a good time to set family goals and have important conversations about finding balance this year.

School often brings with it extracurricular activities, homework, endless laundry, and large to do lists. It is easy for family time to be replaced with children playing sports, studying, and attending birthday parties and other social events while parents hustle to run errands, keep up with housework and their career, and shuttle their kids from place to place.

Because there are only so many hours in a day, something has to give. And all too often, it is family time together. Uninterrupted, device-less, quality time is a precious commodity these days. But maybe this year, you and your family can be intentional about making it a necessity.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider it:

  • Children whose parents are involved are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and are more likely to do better in school.
  • Families are better able to adapt to challenging situations if they are emotionally close.
  • Children whose mother communicates frequently with them (listening, answering questions, and talking) are more likely to perform well academically.
  • Children whose father spends time with them doing activities tend to have better academic success, as well.
  • Adolescents whose parents are involved in their lives tend to exhibit fewer behavioral problems.
  • Youth who participate in activities with their parents and have close relationships with them are less likely to engage in violence.
  • Eating dinner together frequenting reduces the risk of substance abuse for teens.
  • Adolescents whose parents are home with them after school and during the evening hours are less likely to experience emotional distress.

Spending time together doesn’t have to be costly or elaborate. Often, it is more about the frequency of checking in, talking with one another, eating meals together, playing games or playing outside with one another, and other low-stress activities that help family members bond the most. Now is a good time, before it all begins again, to sit down and talk about setting up regular rituals and routines for connecting with one another and committing to make family time a priority this year.


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